top of page

Metamorphing Failures

With the exhibition Metamorphing Failures we are happy to show two artists who happen to be friends: Du Yan, born in Beijing, and Naiwen Chou, born in Taipei. Although working in different media, Du Yan and Naiwen Chou share a common interest in temporality, duration of work, identity, memory, loss and traumas. Metamorphing Failures is a suggestion of morphing their shared interest into a visual representation. Naiwen Chou created an immersive installation in our experimental room. And she also uses the outside space in front of the gallery to show some of her sculptures. Du Yan’s large-scale drawings occupy our main gallery space.


Du Yan: The Private Is Political

Du Yan’s work is political and private at the same time. The political concerns the act of drawing itself. It is a form of self-restraint. It’s just paper and pen. The base of all artistic practice so to speak. In reducing herself to the medium of drawing Du Yan is promoting small acts of resistance against over-consumption, against over-perfection, against exploitation. Choosing a sustainable diet, for example, finding moments for self-care, and doing simple acts like drawing. Those acts help us to unwind from all the stress that the “fluid modernity” (Zygmunt Bauman) has created. The failure of morphing into something better is therefore no failure itself but a form of resistance.


The private concerns what Du Yan is actually drawing. She uses her whole body (the drawings physically demand a lot from the artist) to reproduce impressions of her interior and exterior into a representation of her thoughts and feelings. Different states of mind slip into Du Yan’s powerful large-scale drawings: Hell of Mine, Love is in the Air, the Inflatable Desire, Self Portrait, and Stay High. We see figures that cry, that scream, that laugh, that shit, that desire, that live. These figures evoke feelings of pain and fear, they carry around traumas of losses. They are traumatized, but in the end, they overcome those traumas. They are the utmost expression of what it means to be an animal, human or non-human. They are as alive as one can be.

Naiwen Chou: 10593

Naiwen Chou's in situ installation 10593 consist of 113 hand-sewed stalagmites and stalactites that form a cave. The main aspect of the work refers to the concept of time. The title is a reference to Naiwen Chou’s age: she turned exactly 10593 days on the day of the opening of Metamorphing Failures. The formation of a cave with stalactites usually takes centuries. Stalactites grow about 1 millimeter per decade. The stalactites that Naiwen sewed were not formed over decades, but over weeks. Is that a long time? That depends not so much on the unit of measurement, but on the perceived duration. It seems short in comparison to the natural process, but it is long related to 10593 days lived.


The stalactites come in three sizes, as if they went through different stages of a metamorphosis. They can all be bought individually.


Outside of the gallery, Naiwen Chou placed 9 sculptures (Evergreen 1-9) that have features of a bonsai on our olive stones. Bonsais are heavily man-influenced nature, a kind of second nature. They are an expression of humankind’s will to form nature. They are an attempt at human domination. Naiwen Chou turns the bonsai into an object that can be dominated as well, but in a much more playful way. Parts of her nine Evergreens can be replaced. By doing so, Naiwen Chou takes away the violence inflicted on an actual bonsai and, pars pro toto, on nature.


Both artists, Du Yan and Naiwen Chou, study at ZHdK. We are delighted to present the two young artists in our space for the first time.


Dr. David Iselin, July 2023


Metamorphing Failures

Du Yan and Naiwen Chou

13 July – 13 August 2023

Modern Animals Gallery, Zeltweg 32A, 8032 Zürich

bottom of page